Little Blessed-Eyes; or The Fairy's Birthday Gift
IN the olden times when fairies could be seen by mortals, they often took upon themselves the office of sponsors, god-fathers and god-mothers, to new-born children. In such cases, the child adopted was sure, sooner or later, to receive some wonderful gift from his fairy god-mother.
One bright, Spring morning, a sweet boy baby came into a humble home, made ready for him by love. As his mother looked fondly upon the wee form at her side she thought, naturally enough, of his future, and wondered what kind of a man he would become. "How I wish," said she softly, "that I could give to you, my darling child, the richest gift on earth, so that Kings and Emperors might be proud to call you their companion." "So you can," said a gentle voice beside her. The mother was startled by the words, for she thought herself alone when she uttered the wish. She looked to the right, then to the left,—nobody had entered the room. "Ah, silly woman that I am," sighed she. "I have let my own thoughts answer me." Again she looked down at her babe.
"I can give him the greatest and most wonderful gift on earth," said the same gentle voice. This time the mother was quite sure that some one had spoken, though the voice was unlike any human voice she had ever heard. It was so soft and musical that it sounded like the tinkling of silver bells. The poor woman was quite frightened and drew her babe closer to her side as she peered into the shadowy corners of the room.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the silvery voice, "Are you afraid of me?" Following the sound this time, the mother's eyes fell upon a tiny creature no larger than your thumb who sat perched upon a post of the bed. The body of this strange, little being was as perfect as that of any child. From its two shoulders extended two wings as thin as gauze, but gleaming with every tint of the rainbow. Upon its head was a slender gold crown, and its small face just at this moment was bright with a merry smile.
The mother knew instantly that it was one of the good fairies who were reported to be present at the birth of every babe, and who, if seen and recognized, were sure to bring some good fortune to the child, but if unnoticed, went away sorrowing, because they were then powerless to help the infant.
"What will you do for my child?" cried the mother. "Will you give him comfort and ease and fill his days with pleasure?"
"Ah no," replied the fairy, "I will give him something far better than pleasant food and a soft bed and fine clothes!"
"Will you make him great and powerful so that men may bow down before him?" said the mother eagerly.
"No! no!" again replied the fairy shaking her head. "I will give him something of far more worth than fame and power!"
"You will make him rich, so rich that he will never have to work?" exclaimed the mother.
"Nay, good woman," said the fairy seriously. "These are but foolish things for which you ask. My gift is greater than all of these put together. Pleasure and influence and wealth a man may earn for himself—and he may be very miserable after he gets them, too," added she, with a shrug of the shoulders. "The gift that I would bestow upon your son will make him the happiest of mortals and will give him the power of making many, many others happy!"
"Tell me," cried the mother, "how will you make him so happy? No human being is ever sure of happiness."
"Let me kiss him upon his two eyelids as he lies there asleep," replied the fairy, "and do you the same each returning birthday and all will be well."
The mother hesitated; a step was heard approaching the door.
"Quick, quick!" exclaimed the fairy. "I must be off before that door opens, as it is forbidden us ever to be seen by more than one mortal at a time. Shall I give him the magic kiss or not?"
"Yes!" cried the excited mother, "I trust you will do no harm to my precious child."
Instantly the fairy fluttered down from the post of the bed, and impressing a kiss upon each of the closed eyelids of the child, she said, softly, "He shall be called 'Blessed-Eyes.' "
The door of the room swung back upon its hinges, the father of the child entered with a cheery "Good morning" to wife and babe, the fairy was gone.—The mother silently pondered over what had happened and when the christening day came, she said his name was to be "Blessed-Eyes."
Most of her friends and relatives thought this was a very queer name indeed to give to a child, and even went so far as to argue with the father that the little one ought to be named "John" or "James" after one or the other of his two grandfathers. But as the boy grew into a sweet, healthy childhood, loving and kind to everyone, they were gradually reconciled to the name, and little Blessed-Eyes became a general favorite. He was always sunshiny, always happy. His mother never failed on each new birthday to rise early, even before the day dawned, and to go to his bedside, and, bending over him, kiss his two eyelids as the fairy had bidden. At such times she imagined that she heard a faint sound as of a faraway chorus of strange, silvery voices, singing:
Still, she was never quite sure but that it was merely the first mellow tones of the church bell in a distant village.
Long before her child could talk the mother noticed how closely he observed everything about him, and how quickly he responded to the faintest smile upon her face. As he grew older it was a delight to take him out for a walk. He was constantly discovering some new beauty in the landscape. He saw the first red glow of the evening sunset. His eyes were the first to spy out the early spring flower, even before the snow was off the ground. In the late autumn when the wind was sharp and cold and the woods were bare, he was sure to bring home some red mountain berries, or some withered leaf into a corner of which a cunning little caterpillar had wrapped himself, sewing it over and over as one would sew a bag. Then he would tell gleefully how the frost had touched the ponds and changed them into smooth glass. Often on a cold winter morning he would waken his mother by clapping his hands with joy over the frost-pictures on the window pane. Sometimes in the evening twilight he would ask his mother if the stars were pinholes in the floor of heaven through which the glory shone. No stone nor cloud nor stream nor tree but gave him pleasure.
"Ah," thought the mother, "this is the fairy's birthday gift. She has made his eyes to see the beautiful everywhere." "More than that, far more than that! Kings and princes shall yet call him great!" was whispered gently in her ear. The mother was amazed. Who could have heard her unuttered thoughts? She looked up, but she only saw a robin hopping about in a branch of the tree overhead. Still she seemed to hear again the soft but distant singing of the words,
"Surely," said she, half aloud, "who could help loving the child. He has indeed, blessed eyes."
As the boy grew older he seemed somehow to know the people about him as nobody else knew them. He was always finding out the best that was in each of them. Somehow he had a way of helping all the other lads out of their difficulties. For instance, early one morning when he chanced to be passing the old basket maker's, he heard the shop boy speaking in loud, angry tones to the baskets, abusing them for being so contrary and ill-shaped. Blessed-Eyes paused, and looking through the open door he saw the poor apprentice struggling to fit a round cover on to a square basket and a square cover on to a round basket.
"Let me help you," said Blessed-Eyes cheerily, "I think you have made a mistake, that's all. This cover was intended for that basket, and that cover for this basket." With these words he put the round cover on to the round basket, and the square cover on to the square basket, and each fitted snugly into its place.
"How clever you are, Blessed-Eyes," said the apprentice, "I have been working over these baskets for the last half hour." Without more ado he put them upon his shoulder, and started on his errand, which was to deliver them to the gardener at the King's palace.
Years passed by, changing little Blessed-Eyes into a tall young man, and each succeeding year added to the wonderful power which his eyes possessed, of seeing the best that was in everything and everybody. He was the friend of rich and poor. All sought his companionship, for he was constantly pointing out to them so many beautiful things in the world about them which they would never have seen but for him. All loved him dearly, for he was just as constantly finding the best that their inner world contained, and encouraging them to live according to their noblest ideals of how true men and women should live. So, you see, the fairy's Birthday Gift was indeed a great, and wonderful Gift.